• elasmobranch;
  • ontogenetic shifts;
  • overlap;
  • stomach contents;
  • tropical eastern Pacific Ocean

The diet and diel feeding behaviour of the banded guitarfish Zapteryx xyster were examined along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. A sample of 235 stomachs was collected between March 2010 and December 2011 as part of an ongoing shrimp-trawl by-catch monitoring programme. Samples from multiple day and night periods allowed testing the hypothesis that Z. xyster is more active at night, thus increasing the amount of food intake during night-time. Overall, shrimps (52·3% prey-specific index of relative importance, PSIRIi) and teleosts (27·2% PSIRIi) were the most important prey categories. Juveniles fed primarily on smaller shrimps (Solenocera spp.), while adults shifted to larger prey. The amount of food consumed (as % of bodymass) by juvenile and adult Z. xyster increased significantly between 0400 and 1200 hours, while the proportion of empty stomachs decreased during the same time interval. These findings contradict the hypothesis that Z. xyster is more active and feeds at night. The study also revealed that Z. xyster, particularly juveniles, forage on several shrimp species and overlap spatially with the Costa Rican bottom-trawl fisheries. This has important management and conservation implications as Z. xyster may be experiencing high by-catch rates, and because of their life history is presumed to be vulnerable to intense levels of exploitation.